Eating Smart During the Holidays: 10 Best Tips

Last Updated on January 2, 2024 by Candi Randolph

Are you going to be doing some serious holiday eating? Most of us will raise our little paw and say, “heck, yes!” It’s our time to shine, to enjoy, to overly imbibe, to throw caution to the wind and have another helping. Unfortunately, we know what happens next, especially as women in midlife with slower metabolisms.

Once the joyous celebrations are over and we gather the nerve to step on the scale or attempt to zip up the skinny pants, reality hits. What have we done?!?

eating smart during the holidays

There is another way to sashay our way through the holiday season, or a string of parties, and not end up putting on the extra pounds. And even though the average holiday weight gain doesn’t sound like much, about a pound, the problem is that if we don’t work to take it off, it will accumulate year over year. The best way to deal with this? Be smart about holiday meals.

Eating smart during the holidays is not rocket science, my friends. No revelations, here.

There is a bit of a secret, though, to finding success during this time of year when binge eating is, well, almost acceptable. I’ll tell you what it is. It’s all about eating smart during the holidays.

You need to commit to following ALL of these simple actions, EACH TIME  you are going to a holiday function. It doesn’t matter if it’s cocktails after work, a family gathering or Christmas dinner. If you are serious about getting through this feeding frenzy we call the holidays without finding your clothes fitting tighter, it will require some effort on your part.

Even if the result is just a pound or two and you think, “Whew! That’s not so bad, I’ll lose that weight quickly”, guess what? Most of us don’t follow through, and those small weight gain increments follow us year after year, until we’ve gained a more substantial amount of weight. Sigh.

To add insult to injury, once we reach midlife the pounds seem to appear without provocation, even when we’re working so hard to maintain our weight. For women over 50, we need to ‘gird our loins’ when it comes to holiday eating and commit to ourselves that we’re going to have a wonderful season without losing control of our eating habits.

It can be tough, but if we stay true to our healthy lifestyle and temper the enjoyment of the holiday treats, we’ll maintain more control over our body, and minimize the year over year weight gain. It’s challenging enough to make wise choices each day.

2021 Update: We’ve been through some unique times since the beginning of 2021, haven’t we? This post was written in 2018, well before our partying and holiday gatherings came to a screeching halt.

We’re somewhat back in the game now, and although we are still somewhat cautious about the big, big crowds, the holidays are once again a time to enjoy gathering with those we love, making memories, and enjoying some wonderfully cooked food.

These smart holiday eating tips apply no matter how large or small the party may be. I know that I’m going to keep this list close to my heart and do my best to keep the pesky holiday pounds under control!

These simple tips for eating smart during the holidays will work for you at any time of the year, not just for holiday gatherings. How about wedding receptions, graduation parties, social functions…you don’t have to save your smart eating habits for the month of December. 🙂

10 Best Tips for Eating Smart During the Holidays

10 best tips for smart holiday eating

1 | Don’t starve yourself that day

Even though it may seem to make sense at the time. You’re thinking that if you save up the calories throughout the day, you can eat whatever you want at the holiday shindig and your body will be none the wiser.

Unfortunately, you’re setting yourself up to overeat at the special meal because you’re probably starving. You may end up consuming twice as many calories (and fat, carbs, sodium, etc) as you would if you had not been so ravenous.

2 | Eat a healthy snack before the party

Something small but healthy is all you need. A handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, a small salad.

It will help you feel fuller (naturally!) and you will be able to make better eating decisions at the gathering.

3 | Drink water before the meal

Have a glass of water before going to the holiday affair, and consider starting out with water when you get there.

You’ll feel fuller and like the tip above, you won’t be as likely to overeat.

4 | Tour the food table(s) before putting any food on your plate

Having a plan is so important when eating out during the holidays. Do a ‘walkabout’ of the food…appetizers, main course, dessert…before you eat one thing.

Try to hone in on one item, possibly two, that are higher in protein. Chicken, deviled eggs, a mini turkey wrap, etc. Balance our your choices as much as possible to keep the “bad” foods at a minimum.

Decide in advance what you’re going to eat, pick your poison so to speak and then stick with it.

5 | Commit to avoiding mindless eating

When we’re at holiday gatherings we tend to snack while we eat.

It’s easy to do, with food everywhere tempting us to have ‘just a bite’. Well, you know what happens! Just a bite here, just a bite there…talk and chat some more…another bite here and there…and before you know it you’ve consumed enough bites for a meal. And you haven’t had the meal yet.

So tell yourself, in advance, that you are not going to do that. You’ll put food on your dinner plate one time, and that is all.

Pin this helpful infographic and study it before every holiday gathering!

How to enjoy holiday meals without gaining weight infographic

6 | Beware the sneaky appetizer table

The appetizers look SO good. Tasty, inviting, and there is such a variety! What would it hurt to have just a bite? Hint: read the paragraph above 🙂

Eating smart during the holidays takes some willpower and motivation!

7 | Refrain from 2nd or 3rd helpings

This is so hard to do when the food is tasting so delicious, but it can be a real game-changer when you have a number of holiday gatherings to attend.

So, make a pact with yourself that you will only have one serving of the food you decided to enjoy.

Best advice? Walk away from the table. Just walk away.

8 | Eat slowly and make the meal last longer

This goes hand in hand with the tip above. If you take the time to enjoy and savor the plate of food you took, you won’t be as likely to want more.

And’re not going to have more!

9 | Go easy on the alcohol

Aside from the obvious implications of over-imbibing, alcohol, particularly mixed drinks, can add lots of calories and carbs to the meal. If you drink, have one and be done.

10 | Keep to a regular workout plan

Don’t make the mistake of thinking, “oh well, it’s the holidays and I’m going to blow it anyway, so why bother working out?”.

No, my friend, don’t do that! Maintain your regular workouts – you DO exercise, right?? – and you’ll be doing yourself a favor in the New Year.

Eating smart during the holidays is not only possible, it is very do-able, as long as you are willing to plan ahead a little bit and be true to yourself. Remember these 10 smart holiday eating tips and you’ll do well.

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eating smart during the holidays - 10 best tips

18 thoughts on “Eating Smart During the Holidays: 10 Best Tips”

    1. Hi Holly, I think we all do that to an extent, with the food and snacks that tend to be sitting in front of us so often. It is always a challenge to maintain our healthy mindset!

  1. I always try to get a good workout in if I know I’m going to a party. I don’t use it as an excuse to overeat but I do feel better knowing I have a bit of a “cushion” in the bank.

    1. Absolutely, Kim, I agree that an extra push on the physical activity gives us a bit of a head start! Thanks so much for stoppin by 🙂

  2. These are all so true! The one thing I would add is to make sure there are healthy options, even if it means bringing a dish or two with you! We always spend Thanksgiving with my in-laws, who see vegetable matter as condiments to be used sparingly in a meal. So my hubby and I have learned to be proactive and (over my in-laws’ protests that they don’t need any help, there’s nothing we need to bring) shoehorn in a few veggie side dishes to counteract the less healthy offerings on the table!

  3. Excellent tips Candi and there really isn’t a valid reason for gaining weight during the holiday season. I believe that if we make healthier food choices most of the time, we can indulge occasionally. We seem to think that because it is the holidays we should change our lifestyle. Keeping our exercise routine going and eating healthy in between celebrations will certainly help. Thanks for sharing at #MLSTL and Happy Thanksgiving to you. xx

    1. Thanks Sue…I agree that keeping our routines going with wise choices for indulgence during the holiday season can keep us on track, and still enjoy some treats. 🙂

  4. These are great tips Candi – we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Australia (one of the only US holidays we haven’t adopted – don’t get me started on Halloween creeping in over here – grrrr) Anyway…. I thought they applied equally to Christmas eating too and I loved the idea of doing the table tour first to make more mindful choices – and to not get tempted to go back for seconds (especially dessert!)
    MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing Leanne, I appreciate it! I’ve learned to do a quick ‘tour’ first because it helps me make better decisions on where to spend all those calories!

  5. Thanks for the tips. Holiday food and celebration foods also invoke memories of past celebrations. I recently got my upper teeth back after 16 months with none following cancer surgeries and it was (and still is!) interesting to see what foods I first wanted to try once I could bite and chew again. I also realised, that my months of having to eat in a limited way had given me more good habits of eating for health and nourishment than I had before my cancer. So, lesson for me is the eat from a range of foods but not to over-do one group!

    Happy Thanksgiving. We may not celebrate in Australia, but sending good wishes to you and yours.
    Denyse #MLSTL

    1. Thanks so much for sharing and for the good wishes, Denyse. I hope that you’re well on the road to recovery and are enjoying the healthy food choices you are now able to eat again!

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